Associated Press

Mike Leake becomes a rare single-digit-wearing pitcher

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Mike Leake was just formally announced as the newest member of the St. Louis Cardinals. At his press conference they showed his jersey: number 8. Which is really, really unusual for a pitcher.

Indeed, pitchers hardly ever wear single-digit numbers. At any given time there are a couple around. Marcus Stroman is the only one I could think of off the top of my head. He wears number 6. I asked Twitter for others and was reminded that Adam Ottavino wears 0. Kyle Drabek did before 2015 but he switched when he joined the White Sox. That may be the entire list.

Ten years ago Stefan Fastis of the Wall Street Journal wrote a story about single-digit pitchers. In it he explained the historical basis for the practice. The first team to go with numbers and stick with them was the Yankees, and they assigned numbers by batting order position. The number three hitter was #3 Babe Ruth, the cleanup hitter was #4 Lou Gehrig, etc. Catchers — like Bill Dickey — wore 8. A pitcher batted ninth but the backup catcher would get 9 and backup fielders the lower double digit numbers. Eventually, someplace in the teens, you’d get to the pitchers. That system eventually broke down, but the tradition remained.

Fastis’ story also revealed, however, that in modern times pitchers rarely wearing single digits is simply a matter of tradition and superstition and irrational aesthetic preference. There he talked to an equipment manager and a historian about it and it was revealed that it just seems weird to people for a pitcher to have a single digit. The story also contains a very Reggie Jackson quote about just how WRONG it was for a pitcher to wear a single digit. Like so many things in baseball, it’s just a matter of calcified orthodoxy. Like “playing the game the right way.”

Which makes Leake’s choice even more fun. I mean, Leake plays for the St. Louis Cardinals. A club which, justified or not, is often accused of absolutely abhorring the notion of people not playing the game the right way. Here’s hoping he sticks to his number 8 and isn’t told that he needs to do things . . . by the numbers.

Red Sox place Chris Sale on 10-day injured list

Chris Sale
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Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale has been placed on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation, the club revealed Saturday. The assignment is retroactive to August 14. In a corresponding roster move, right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.

It’s an alarming development for the 30-year-old ace, who has been remarkably injury-free after dealing with a lingering case of shoulder inflammation last summer. While he hasn’t replicated the career-high results he delivered over the last two seasons, he still leads Red Sox pitchers with 3.6 fWAR and will head to the IL with a 6-11 record in 25 starts, a 4.40 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, and league-best 13.3 SO/9 through 147 1/3 innings. A timetable has not been given for his return, nor has the severity of his injury been disclosed. Per Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski, Sale has been experiencing pain in his elbow since Wednesday and will undergo further evaluation in the days to come.

Brasier, 31, was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in mid-July after pitching to mixed results in the majors. He currently holds a 4.46 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, and 8.0 SO/9 with the Red Sox, though his results in Triple-A — one run, one walk, and 13 strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings — suggest that he might be capable of even sharper results when he rejoins the big league club.